While renewable energies were in trouble, the threat of oil shortages and climate change gave them a boost. But pioneers have been at work for a long time ...
The Bosshard family, which together with Woodpower AG near Wila in the canton of Zurich produces CO2-neutral current and heat through wood gasification.
The idea was born three years ago: father and son Bosshard, owners of a wood construction company in Wila, wanted to secure their future by seeking new prospects.
"Woodpower was born out of necessity, but not only. There was also an interest in new technologies because we are a family of do-it-yourselfers, and then we wanted to do something for the environment, "says Oliver Bosshard with pride.
By chance, they fell on a small wood gasification plant and began to think about the possibility of commercial exploitation. They have done research on the Internet, sought contacts and investors around the world.
During the change of supply network, the Zurich-based electricity company EKZ became aware of the existence of the company and was interested in it. Today, EKZ owns 49% of the capital of Woodpower.
Wood carburetors were already used in the era of the 19th World War, notably to replace gasoline. They were fueled with beech wood and installed on trucks. Then, this technology has fallen into oblivion.
Moreover, the Bosshard found no model of commercial exploitation in Europe. But, finally, in India, where there were forty years of experience. "It's rather curious to go and seek know-how in a country that, if not, does not matter any of the Western countries," says Oliver Bosshard.
To produce electricity, the company uses unused wood waste from the surrounding area. "There's plenty of wood here. If it were to be transported over long distances, the benefit to the environment and the company would be reduced. "
The old wood is first burned, and produces wood gas, composed of carbon monoxide, dihydrogen and methane. Before introducing the gas into the current generator, it must be cleared of any trace of tar which is discharged with the special waste.
The combustion of wood is part of the natural cycle of carbon: it does not give off more CO2 than it had to the tree for its growth, so that the electricity produced is neutral compared to Greenhouse gas emissions.
Heat and current
But electricity accounts for only a third of production. The essential thing is the heat. A small part is used to dry the wood used for the production of electricity. And the greater part to make wooden pads. The more dry they are, the better the combustion.
Oliver Bosshard added that since the facility was commissioned at the beginning of the year, they are falling under demand. He does not know if his adventure is going to be a school in Europe. But 'childhood illnesses' have now passed, only a few adjustments remain to be made. According to his most conservative estimates, his business will be profitable in two years.
The Energy of the Future
For EKZ and the Bosshard, this innovative and unique installation plays a pilot role, also a demonstration role: there are daily visitors. Banks and electricity groups invest in renewable energies, in short, the green current is very trendy.
The Confederation also wants to encourage this sector. Michael Kaufmann, deputy director of the SFOE, explains: "Projects such as Wila have a future. Switzerland has great potential in terms of biomass, wood and organic waste, and it has to be exploited. It's energy that's in front of our door. "
Michael Kaufmann is pleased to see this kind of project happen. But this type of installation must have a certain size, not too important either, so as not to harm the environment, for example with too long transports.
Recently, the United Nations has warned of the negative effects of bioenergy, but its benefits should not be ignored. "I would like to point out that fossil fuels have far more serious effects on the environment and society," says Michael Kaufmann.
"As this is just the beginning of renewable energies, we have the opportunity to learn the lessons we need." And, therefore, to avoid negative developments. "The use of biomass must not harm the population, agricultural production or the ecosystem."
Swissinfo, Gaby Ochsenbein
(Translation and adaptation of the German: Isabelle Eichenberger)
Found on: http://www.econologique.info/index.php/ ... issinfoorg